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Spain Follows Greece in Adopting Austerity Measures

  • Lisa Bryant

Spain has followed Greece Wednesday in announcing a package of new, tough austerity measures to rein in its soaring public deficit and debt.

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero announced new belt-tightening measures to parliament. He said it was critical for Spain to make a singular and extraordinary effort to reduce the public deficit.

Mr. Zapatero said the government would cut civil workers' salaries by five percent on average starting next month, and freeze them next year. Government members and other senior officials also face salary cuts. He said most pensions will also be frozen.

Like Greece, Spain faces major financial problems, and its credit ratings have been downgraded.

Mr. Zapatero announced an initial round of austerity measures earlier this year, but the European Union has pushed Spain to make further cuts in return for the security of a newly announced safety net amounting to almost a trillion dollars for ailing EU members.

The European Union reacted positively to Mr. Zapatero's newly announced cuts. So did some Spanish businessmen, like Enrique Quemada.

Quemada said other countries were reluctant to lend Spain money. He said Spain must simply stop spending.

But another Spaniard, who gave his name as Javier, criticized the move.

Javier called the spending cuts unfortunate. He said the government was not taking people's interests into account.

Spain and Greece count among several European Union countries whose high deficits are sparking worldwide alarm. On Tuesday, President Barack Obama telephoned Mr. Zapatero to push for resolute action to reform the Spanish economy.

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